Data center training companies battle students' misconceptions

Officials from two training companies are trying to keep their data center courses current with the times. But they need students to realize that data center training isn't the same as IT training.

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Companies that sell data center training courses are trying their best to keep current with technology, but their leaders want students to understand that it's not conventional IT education.

Those who deal in applications, operating systems, servers, and switches will not teach you about cabling, cooling, fire protection, physical security, power systems, and site selection.

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Officials of two popular companies--International Data Center Authority (IDCA) and the Uptime Institute--explained their roots, practices, and goals for TechRepublic readers. Both companies are also in the business of certifying data centers, which the data center owners then advertise to entice customers.

On the education front, "We started in 2011 with a mission to fill gaps in the industry," IDCA founder Mehdi Paryavi explained. "We came with a background of having been through all of this. When [information professionals] work for Amazon and they go to Google and they go to Apple, they have totally different knowledge... it will increase the human error margins," he asserted.

"The courses that were out there were teaching people how to configure a UPS maybe, or how a cooling system works," in addition to all the training offered by hardware and software companies. "But nothing about how to configure and govern an application ecosystem," Paryavi continued. "You have all this machinery to serve one purpose. That's to run the applications and deliver the data."

IDCA markets its services through resellers, including Paryavi's own company TechXact. Equipment and software vendors are constantly turned away in order to keep the classes unbiased, he said.

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Uptime Institute formed in the 1990s and sold its educational division to IT research and analysis firm The 451 Group in 2009. Orlando Dolojan, director of client engagement, said Uptime instructors encourage students to share their real-world experiences and that studying the influence of cloud-based technology is having a major impact on syllabi. When a company hires a cloud service, "Instead of a facilities manager, you are now a management team," he observed.

"Some facilities guys have no idea what the IT guys want," Dolojan noted. "The old facilities guys have no idea what IT is about--'I need to give you cooling and power, give me the plug size and the amps,'" but that approach is quickly changing out of necessity, he said.

Both companies have course catalogs with tracks for construction, operation, and management. Both also boast of name-brand clients. IDCA cites students from Apple, Caterpillar, Microsoft, and Salesforce. Uptime Institute cites those from Boeing, Dell, UnitedHealthcare, and Visa.

However, potential students also need to know the possible drawbacks. Both companies' courses are mostly limited to classroom theory, not hands-on experience; both companies are for-profit businesses, not non-profits accredited by higher educational organizations (Uptime Institute works with the UK-based CPD Standards Office, which is a for-profit company); both assert that their training leads to certifications, but neither is endorsed by any official industry standards body; and both charge several thousand dollars for their classes.

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